Rivers Givers Announces Latest Grant Recipients

What Rivers program is celebrating its 19th year, has taught hundreds of students about the power of philanthropy, and has given $200,000 in donations to more than 50 local nonprofit organizations? That could only be Rivers Givers, the longstanding group that helps fill the needs of the community and, not incidentally, gives students a comprehensive look at how fundraising really works.

For philanthropists—and philanthropists-in-training—it’s rarely just a matter of raising the money and writing a check. Charitable causes must be chosen and vetted with care, ensuring that they are not just well intentioned but effective. Donors need to know where their dollars are going and whether the recipients are fiscally responsible. Grant proposals must be reviewed for feasibility and impact.

It’s a complex process, and that’s really the underlying purpose of Rivers Givers. Each year, a group of juniors and seniors commits to the program, which includes a three-part curriculum, several workshops, and extensive fundraising. This year, parents Pam Martin P’26, ’28, ’29 and Matt Hiatt P’21, ’22, ’24, each with a background in philanthropy, provided training to students on the process of reviewing and evaluating grant proposals. Said Director of Community Engagement Lucas Malo, who leads the program, “They taught the students how to assess the impact of proposed projects, how to understand the depth of impact of an organization, and how explore the inner operations, structure and budgeting of nonprofits, as well as simply serving as a sounding board as the students entered this process. “

Students typically spend weeks reviewing applicants, culminating in spring site visits to the organizations that make it to the finalist round. At the end of the process, one or more applicants are chosen to receive the money raised throughout the year. 

Farrah Reza ’24, one of the Rivers Givers student leaders, said there were several aspects of the program that spoke to her. “It was a chance to meet students whose interests are similar to mine and to further my passion while building connections with organizations,” said Reza. “As both a member and leader, I feel as though it gave me many skills. Learning about organizations and making a difference while working with your friends is a great opportunity, and I learned how to make a plan and execute it!”

Last Friday, at an Upper School assembly, this year’s recipients were announced. After careful consideration, the students chose two organizations, who will each receive half of the $10,000 raised this year: The Soul Project, which supports empowerment for women and girls, and Village Table, which provides meals for those in need. Representatives from both organizations addressed the students at the assembly, sharing the message about their respective missions and expressing deep gratitude for the generosity of the Rivers community.

Kristie Rae Dean, founder of the Soul Project, told the students about the impact the donation would have on her organization. Among other activities, the group supports a club and social activities for teen girls with disabilities; some of the grant money will go toward making the annual “formal ball” for these teens even more special. 

The Village Table’s Shannon Kelly described how the group had grown by leaps and bounds from its modest start in 2020; since January 2023, she said, volunteers for the organization had prepared and distributed 11,000 meals. “We peel a lot of potatoes and chop a lot of carrots,” Kelly said, encouraging interested members of the audience to volunteer. The $5,000 her group received from Rivers Givers, she said, would provide 1,700 meals to those in need. 

Later, Malo said that Rivers Givers reflects the cumulative effect of many small actions. “This is a program that speaks to the power of a community coming together to deepen their collective impact,” he said. With a pizza sale here and a bake sale there, said Malo, “the program ultimately resulted in $10,000 being donated to two very deserving organizations.”
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